A Wicked Stepfather Pt. 01byEgmont0409©
"Jenna, I don't think you understand. I'm investing a significant amount of money in this investigation and want it to proceed smoothly."
"Name me a person your second husband doesn't like?"
"Well, for a start there's you and..."
"Exactly mother. Since I now scarcely talk to him, isn't it unlikely I'll say anything to him that makes him suspicious he is being scrutinized?"
"Well, I suppose that makes sense."
"And if Eliot and I develop a relationship that Peter finds out about, it will have to be accomplished openly so Peter has no reason to become suspicious?"
"What kind of relationship?"
"I want to invite Eliot to move in with me."
"He's made a huge impression on me."
"What, you two have had sex already?"
"Unfortunately no, I gave him the opportunity but he walked away from me."
"Thank God at least one of you is sensible."
"Mother his only reason for doing that in my view is he didn't have your approval."
"A lot of things about relationships appear absurd mother."
Eloise flared. "Stop calling me mother as it implies disapproval."
"Oh, how astute of you."
"What? Oh, I see. You can be such a brat at times. May I have time to think about this?"
Jenna then related how Eliot had contacted her, what he'd said to her and she described her first sight of him and how that had almost over-powered her and how charming he'd been to both her and Leonardo and said how impressed Leonardo had been.
"Well I never, how romantic for you," Eloise said warmly. "Who am I to stand in your way?"
"Thank you mom. You are kind in what you say to me. I'll do nothing to harm the investigation. Look, why don't you get Brigit to take Eliot to dinner at Leonardo's on Monday evening and invite Peter and you to meet her new appointee? Brigit can then reveal her thoughts on the need for a comprehensive review of all departments and leave it to you to take over from there. She can hint that Eliot's qualifications make him a good person to represent editorial and being new comes without prejudices."
"Do you think that's wise, rushing into it?"
"Yes mom, I do. You have taken a courageous step in setting this up and the quicker you put things into motion the less time there is for any suspicion to form. You're in the driving seat so drive."
"Very well darling. I suppose my first duty is to call Eliot and welcome him and tell him he is free to seduce my daughter?"
"Just call and welcome him and say you approved of me being your go-between. I shall take care of the rest. Oh, this is all happening with Brigit's cooperation. It may assist my possible romance if you call her to advise you have confided in me and explain to her my need to be welcomed to the table when I turn up unexpectedly on Monday night if that arrangement goes ahead."
As soon as her mother left Jenna ordered another coffee and, disappointed Eliot hadn't called her, she called him. He didn't answer so she left no message. She didn't work weekends so called her store manager Eva who said they had been busy but there were no problems. She entered the lobby of the apartment building and checked her mail and found a message among the post.
'Hi, I called at 9:30 and the guy at the desk told me you were out. I have booked a table for us at the Thai Garden Restaurant just opposite here for 9:00 tonight. If you are otherwise engaged or if eating with me unaccompanied is without appeal, I'll survive being abandoned. You have lovely legs. Eliot.'
Lovely legs? Jenna tingled and that confirmed something she'd come to know over the years with increasing intensity: the start of a romance was always the best part, especially when tentative or had her worrying it was not proceeding as she expected. This one was screaming to her not to let him slip through her fingers and if he appeared in no hurry for her to drop her panties then that didn't mean he wasn't interested or was a deviant or he was a waste of time.
"Just be there for him, it will happen," she whispered in an attempt to train her mind to not expect the succulent Mr Nephew to be single minded about her vagina.
The guy had acknowledged she had lovely legs. She sighed as she walked to the elevator and thought what a turn on. Most of the males intent on more than befriending her usually waxed on that she was ever so interesting, looked so pretty and appealing or they simply avoided words and reached to cup a breast with a hand possessed by a carnally-focused twitch. Jenna couldn't recall any guy opening with a favorable comment about her legs. She knew she had great legs because her mom on a few occasions had mentioned it as fact in admiration and girlfriends mentioned it enviously.
Jenna's mind blurred and it suddenly cleared as the image revealed sent her heart racing: she'd pictured Eliot licking one of her lower legs.
"Perhaps he has a stockings fetish?" she murmured aloud and turned away in embarrassment when an older woman who'd followed her into the elevator looked at her curiously. At that moment the elevator stopped at the fourth, allowing Jenna to escape on to her level.
Jenna had just placed her handbag on the kitchen bench when her phone went. She dug it out and Brigit Wiseman said she'd just been talking to Eloise and said she and Jenna needed to talk.
"Come to lunch at 1:00," said the 38-year-old. "Ralph will only be there to eat with us because he's working on his annual report."
"Right, I remember where you live."
Brigit had been newly appointed as news editor when Jenna had spent her summer vacation ten years earlier working as an assistant to the civic affairs reporting team as decreed by her father to learn about the family business. They had become friendly and even more so when Jenna became Brigit's assistant the next summer. That friendship really developed over drinks immediately after Jenna father's burial when the distraught Brigit confessed to Eloise and Jenna that she and Athol had spent several weekends away together.
Jenna had expected her mother who'd become company chairman two days earlier to slap Brigit and snarl she was fired but to Jenna's amazement her mother patted Brigit's cheek and smiled saying, "He had impeccable tastes darling. A few years ago Athol and I agreed to have an occasional fling with someone else. He'd told me about you."
A little over a year later Eloise fired the under-performing managing director and replaced him with executive editor Peter Cruickshank and promoted Brigit to Peter's vacated position. After Peter's second failed attempt at seducing Jenna, Eloise accepted her daughter's resignation, subsidized her move into leasing a twin towers apartment and purchased the mall lingerie business as a going concern for Jenna in compensation for unwittingly exposing her daughter to the lecherous Peter.
After lunch Brigit and Jenna arranged the strategy for dinner to introduce new arrival Eliot to the company's two principals. Brigit then called Peter who said he was available and confirmed with Eloise she could attend.
"This is unusual asking us to dine with a subordinate," Peter said.
"I have been studying the background of our Mr Nephew," Brigit said smoothly. "He has a masters in financial management and worked before becoming news editor as a reporter making quite a name for himself in breaking top news stories. He is also an experienced business news reporter. I have a proposal to put to you and Eloise over dinner and I think we should involve him. Being fresh to our company he's more likely to take an unbiased global view and pinpoint areas through financial and business analysis where we should change our ways in order to improve turnover and bottom line profitability."
"I see and regard that as being constructive thinking, although the focus on analytical investigation and considered outcomes seems a little beyond your area of specialist knowledge, don't you think?"
"Yes, without question. But please wait for me to present my thoughts as a total package and allow Mr Nephew to comment. He comes to us fresh, with an open mind."
Peter said well he could agree with that point. It ought to be an interesting discussion.
"Well, Peter is curious enough to want to hear what I intend to propose," Brigit said gleefully to Jenna. "My whole instinct tells me that something underhand is going on within the company."
"But no evidence is known to you or mom?"
"Correct but if you intended to cheat a company you'd cover your tracks very carefully wouldn't you?"
"Yes and I imagine that's my mother's feeling. Thank you for supporting her in this manner Brigit, especially since Peter is your immediate superior."
"Please don't tell Eloise this but Peter made an all-out effort to bang me last year when we attended an overnight conference together."
Jenna looked at the now a little dumpy and rather hard-faced mother-of-two affectionately, pleased that she'd shared that secret but hoped Brigit's loyalty to Eloise was not blinded but she thought that was unlikely.
Jenna was aware Brigit, who'd half completed a law degree before switching to media studies had developed a cynical nose of a career newshound and as a senior reporter had taken almost two years off during at the birth of her first baby to complete her law degree, believing that would help advance her career.
On the way home from that satisfying lunch meeting, Jenna detoured to talk to her mother.
"Brigit approved of my plan and has refined it," Jenna said as they sat in the 'summer house' her English-born mother had constructed because her parents had one in their garden. Jenna only ever drank tea when with her mother and knew it was mandatory if they sat in the summerhouse. They sat facing back to the house to spot Peter early if he approached.
Her mother said initially Brigit thought Jenna's involvement was risky and the dinner set-up to 'introduce' Jenna to Eliot was clumsy and the arrangement could easily make Peter wonder what was going on. "But I pointed out you'd always been a great little actress, a point Brigit agreed with and said you were also an accomplished liar when it suited you."
Jenna snorted but was ignored.
"I then said the company was well overdue for a comprehensive operational review and that turned her around. She said she'd work on making her review presentation sound authentic enough to what she called 'the good side to Peter' to accept. She argued that if Peter was confident any criminal activity was well-covered then he'd have no reason to object to a company-wide review with its idealistic goals."
Jenna smiled and said the phrase 'idealistic goals' sounded patronizing enough to relax her mother's cheating second husband.
"He's your stepfather darling," he mother said almost absentmindedly and was ignored. Her additional comment 'Peter should not be tagged a cheat' until that is proven' was also ignored but her next comment received intense attention.
"I called Eliot and welcomed him to the city. We chatted while I waited for him to disclose you and he had met and dined together. But he remained discreet so I had to tell him you had talked to me about it and the suggestion you act as our go-between. He seemed please about that and asked would I object if a friendship between you two developed and I said not at all.
"His very words darling but don't despair. He's obviously skilled at remaining cautious."
"He feels he must check you out first, not wanting to be landed with a sex bunny."
Eloise sighed and said she'd appreciate not being in a virtual one-sided conversation, that right now it was like being in conversation with a male.
"I'm sorry," Jenna pouted.
"By sex bunny I mean he knows you are young and obviously healthy so in all probability are interested in sex but he wants a relationship that flourishes post-sex."
"Are you sure about that?"
"Yes dear, some males think beyond sex and this is one of them. Actually I think he's very intelligent and very analytical and that's why he's here on my payroll darling."
Jenna said of course. "You know my run of men in recent times has been rather depressing."
"You've become sex-oriented darling but don't fret, we all make mistakes. Look what I did by filling the gap in my life with Peter."
They smiled and Eloise topped up the teacups.
"Did Eliot say how long he'd be staying at the hotel?"
"Yes, until he finds suitable lower-cost accommodation and believes he'll accomplish that within a week, even if it means buying an RV."
"But I don't wish to live in a recreational vehicle."
"Oh, so he's asked you already to live with him?"
Eloise said dryly that Jenna had left herself open to that tease.
"If I decide to upgrade to a larger apartment could I expect your monthly rental subsidy to continue at the current level?"
"Of course dear and even if he chooses to shift in with you and that would be rather nice for you, I must admit. As you know the payment comes from the family trust which your father set up and which is beyond the reach of Peter."
Back at Twin Towers Jenna went to the on-site manager's office and the weekend manager showed her the location of the seven vacant apartments and two that would become vacant on the following Monday. One of the latter was on the 17th floor of Sunrise Tower, immediately below the penthouses. Molly the manager then selected a section on a DVD that showed as an example of that class of apartment. It contained a master bedroom 10% larger than Jenna's present apartment plus a second bedroom with attached bathroom and a tiny study and the lounge/dinning room was 20% larger than her present layout. The rental increase would be $485 a month more than the rental for her apartment so she registered an expression of interest that included being alerted if anyone else expressed similar interest.
Within the hour Jenna was working out in the basement gym and then after showering went to the podium rooftop garden at the fifth level between the towers and swam for more than a hour, killing time.
To Be Continued...